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Govts adopt landmark decision to hold Big Tobacco liable for harms caused

More than 180 governments representing nearly more than 90 per cent of the world’s population have adopted landmark public health decisions that will protect public health over the narrow interests of the tobacco industry by holding Big Tobacco legally liable for the harms of its products.

The governments at the conclusion of the seventh session of the World Health Organisation’s global tobacco treaty negotiations here yesterday, also sought recovery of healthcare costs, facilitate access to justice for victims of tobacco-related disease, and safeguard public health policy making from the industry at the national level.

The meeting unanimously adopted the suite of public health measures over the objections of the tobacco industry. Throughout the negotiations to the treaty, formally the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the industry tried to undermine the talks via government delegations, industry front groups, lobbying, and other means. Despite these tactics, governments adopted decisions, like advancements on legal liability, that could provide precedent for holding other industries accountable for the environmental and public health harms they cause.

Describing the tobacco industry as the single largest barrier to tobacco control policies globally, John Stewart, deputy campaigns director at Corporate Accountability International said, ”We applaud the delegates that stood up to the industry and rejected their rhetoric. It is thanks to them that governments have now adopted some of the strongest measures yet to protect millions of people’s lives.”

At the negotiations, governments agreed to expand the expertise and case studies available to file legal and civil suits against Big Tobacco. The decision, which advances Article 19 of the global tobacco treaty, opens the door for governments to sue the industry and recoup millions of dollars for the health care costs associated with tobacco use.

“It could also provide precedents for people to pursue legal liability for other industries that affect public health and the environment, like the fossil fuel industry,” said Rahul Dwivedi, Director of Vote For Health campaign. So far, a handful of countries have benefitted from applying the principles contained in Article 19 as in the case of Canadian smokers who recently won a 15 billion U S dollar payout from the industry, after a historic 17-year legal suit. More UNI SD RSA 1130

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